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AFM Magazine

Letter from the Publisher

Handling hard times and bad calls...
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Two recent games in the SEC gave vivid and contrasting examples of how coaches can react after losses. One is the right way to do it, and a way for a head coach to serve as a role model for his team, and a leader. The other is nothing more than simple excuse making and serves no one well.

Do you remember playing wiffle ball in the back yard as a youngster, and if you hit the runner with the ball he was out? Well, if you watched the annual Tennessee-Florida bloodbath in mid-September, you might think that the SEC has a similar rule; if a quarterback hits a receiver in the end zone, it is a touchdown.

Trailing 23-20, Florida drove to the Tennessee 3-yard line in the last seconds. UF QB Jesse Palmer then threw a third-down pass to Jabar Gaffney just over the goal line, but two Volunteers defenders slammed into Gaffney and knocked the ball loose. The line judge paused briefly before raising his arms to signal the touchdown, putting the Gators ahead to stay with 14 seconds to play.

The loss for Tennessee was a devastating one and likely will prevent the Volunteers from winning the SEC Eastern Division. Yet, in the aftermath of the loss and the call that may well have cost his team the game, Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer showed why he is one of the nation's premiere coaches. Fulmer not only has won more than 84% of his games (76-14 going into 2000), but he also has consistently set a great example of leadership for his players.

When asked about the more than controversial call in the post game press conference, Fulmer quickly put an end to any controversy from UT when he said, " It's irrelevant what I think...the guy called it a touchdown. It must be a touchdown.

"We (can) sit here and bounce that ping-pong back and forth all day. There were 140 other plays in the ball game that could have made a difference. We're not going to hang the game on one play or one official. It's done.''

Given that type of "take responsibility for the win or loss" attitude, is it any wonder why Tennessee has been so successful during Fulmer's tenure?

Football is a game that cannot be won by any one person, but one person can affect the outcome. In Tennessee's case, Phil Fulmer is that one person. His stance on personal accountability and lack of excuse making affects each Vol player every time they step on the playing field.

While Fulmer's attitude is commendable, sets a great life-lesson for players, and is surely the right way for a coach to react after a tough loss, another SEC coach gave a perfect example of what not to do.

Alabama's Mike DuBose, reacting to what he perceived were poor calls in a tough loss to Arkansas, said when asked about a very controversial holding call that kept the Hogs game-winning drive going after a failed fourth-down pass, "I'm as mad as I've ever been since I've been in the coaching profession.

"It was the same people who didn't see 12 people on the field on third-and-11," he said. "That's just very frustrating when you've got people who can't count to 12, yet can see a holding call from 30 yards away. It makes me wonder."

I am not condemning DuBose. I am certain that the emotions filling a coach of a team losing a hard-fought game are beyond comprehension, but which of these two reactions is the better example of teaching?

Players read newspapers and watch TV. They see how their leader acts and reacts to many situations. Ask yourself, in the aftermath of each of these losses, do you believe the Alabama or Tennessee players learned more from their coach about how to handle adversity?


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